Toronto Hydro MuniFi Disruption redux

If you’ve been living under a rock, you may not have heard about Toronto Hydro Telecom getting into the community wifi broadband business. I for one was surprised to find out that Toronto Hydro had a telecom subsidiary. It turns out, they’re not the only ones.

Here is a nice overview of community wifi projects around North America from the Globe & Mail. Hanna’s asking the right questions over at Wireless Toronto:

Also (curiously) absent from any coverage of this plan is mention of UTC Canada, “a trade association focused on addressing the critical telecommunications issues for utilities and energy companies in Canada and the providers of telecommunications infrastructure or information technology services.�

Remember, these are electrical utilities. A picture is presenting itself of a dormant fibre optic network that has the potential to access almost every telephone pole and/or lamp-post in Southern Ontario. Forgive me for getting myself excited over the prospect of clusters of municipal wifi mesh networks all over the place, but consultant-bloggers need to get out of the house more often.

Is it time to start thinking of broadband as a utility?

It is clear that it is in the public interest to have ubiquitous broadband, and wireless offers a low cost alternative for delivering that last mile. We are long overdue for a proper debate on the topic of the “digital divide”, and this development provides an opening. In disenfranchised communities both inside and outside the city people – kids – do not have access to the single most important technology that is the platform for the knowledge-based economy of the future. I would love to see a GIS map of the city showing the correlation between broadband penetration and average income. Any Regent Park bloggers out there? Arm kids with broadband, inexpensive laptops and provide them with access to video/audio gear and watch a flowering of creative and economic vitality in this city in the years that follow.

And don’t get me started on gun violence and its connection to social and economic exclusion.

Rogers, Telus & Bell may not like this idea, but where is the consensus in the public interest? Telecom is ripe for serious disruption, IMHO.
Thti Utel-8.5X11-2

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3 thoughts on “Toronto Hydro MuniFi Disruption redux”

  1. hi mark,

    nicely put – 2 things…

    1) “A picture is presenting itself of a dormant fibre optic network that has the potential to access almost every telephone pole and/or lamp-post in Southern Ontario.”

    Indeed. but i don’t think that will be for quite awhile. For example, I’ve noticed that news coverage of the planned wifi rollout keeps inching away from the original June intro, and is now hovering around Sept. I won’t speculate as to why this is, since there are myriad reasons (red tape, technical snafus, etc.) but I wouldn’t strike the possibility of some incumbent strong-arminng.

    It’s refreshing to see the “public utility” debate finally hit Canada. It’s been years in the making over in the U.S. (but they’ve got bigger issues with broadband…)
    But the timing couldn’t be better – the TPRP call for liberalization of the telecom market dovetails nicely with the recent Hydro announcement, and it’s heartening to see public interest over this hold steady.

    2) “Any Regent Park bloggers out there?”
    yep. http://focus.civiblog.org/blog

  2. Hanna,

    Thanks for the comment. I’m interested in raising the profile of the net-neutrality and digital divide issues, and this municipal wifi development provides an opportunity. Thanks too for the link to Catch da Flava. Too bad there’s no RSS feed!

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